04 October 2008

Concentration and pluralism in the media

Dr Grumble does not want to lose his readers. So why does he raise the tedious topic of a Motion for a European Parliament Resolution on concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union (2007/2253(INI))? What is there to fear from this superficially innocuous document? Prompted by a post from the Witch Doctor, today is the second time Dr Grumble has perused this impenetrable product of Brussels. He still finds it heavy going. The first sentence of the paper is the longest sentence Dr Grumble has ever read. Any document which has 23 paragraphs in a row beginning with the word 'whereas' cannot be intended for the likes of Dr Grumble. There are also six paragraphs in a row beginning 'having regard to'. Plainly this is not the sort of document a mere mortal like Dr Grumble could possibly summarise here. But he thinks he understands the implication of the words 'having regard to' and 'whereas'.

As Dr Grumble has already revealed he failed Use of English so he finds trying to explain the significance of these words a challenge. By way of illustration, here is a sentence written in the style of a Brussels bureaucrat.

Dr Grumble,
- having regard to the law on the welfare of animals,
A. whereas dogs are a man's best friend, it is recognised that they may foul paths,
1. Urges the EU to have all dogs destroyed.

The above example does not read well but, frankly, nor does the EU document. It is quite difficult to extract the meaning from Dr Grumble's short paragraph but what you can see is that where it says 'having regard to' and 'whereas' the scene is being set. There is some motherhood and apple pie stuff there but it is meaningless as the sting is in the tail. What this means is that all the nice talk in the EU document about the Human Rights Act and Civil Liberties is not at all reassuring. That's just the preamble. What one needs to look out for is their proposals. Here is just one:

The European Parliament,
9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers; (pdf)

We already know that the EU has become very concerned about the political influence of bloggers. Taxpayers money has been spent analysing the effect bloggers may have had on the outcome of the Irish referendum. Is that proper use of our money? Would they have bothered if the result had gone the EU way? Why do they want to 'clarify our legal status'? How can you have a legal status if nobody knows who you are? Doesn't having a legal status inevitably mean loss of anonymity?

We can chat to each other in the pub. We can chat to strangers. We don't have to reveal who we are before we open our mouths. We could post anonymous pamphlets through letter boxes if we could be bothered. So why shouldn't we express our views in our personal blogs, anonymously or otherwise, without let or hindrance from the superstate European Union?


Elaine said...

Very worrying. It doesn't matter to me directly as a blogger as I am no longer employed, being retired. However I am concerned that all the implications contained within the document will affect me and many others.

madsadgirl said...

If politicians told us the truth, without any waffle, they would have nothing to fear from bloggers, would they? We only express our opinions on things that concern us. We don't force anyone to agree with what we say.

Garth Marenghi said...

Indeed, they are afraid of open debate and the truth, politicians are afraid of any kind of democracy that they cannot control from the top, they are scared of a real democracy.

The EU super-autocracy does not appear to be in anyone's interests apart from the ruling elite's.

Dr Grumble said...

Number 7:

- Proposes the introduction of fees commensurate with the commercial value of the user-generated content as well as ethical codes and terms of usage for user-generated content in commercial publications;


Does anybody know what this means? Is this some sort of a blogging charge to pay for the bureaucracy put in place to keep us all on the straight and narrow?

Betty M said...

That looks to me like something to get newspapers etc who lift blog content from individual bloggers to pay for it

Dr Grumble said...

Thanks Betty M. We need a lawyer with this. Now you have explained it with an example Dr G understands what this is getting at.

Dr Grumble has had bits of his blog lifted and published commercially. They did ask his permission but when he failed to respond they published it anyway. Dr Grumble didn't actually mind but Dr Crippen has sent in bills for this sort of thing (which have been paid).

You can see why legislators can see a problem with the uncharted territory of blogs but I suspect that there already are laws which apply to newspapers stealing the Grumble words.

Dr Grumble has not given any of this much thought but he would be more in favour of freeing things up and allowing people to use content more readily without worrying about copyright and other legal impediments to the free and rapid expression of views and ideas.

You may have noticed that Dr Grumble shows many fewer pictures than he did. This was because of copyright concerns. Yet Dr Grumble could freely link to the picture. If it is OK to create a link why shouldn't it be OK to cut and paste into the blog. The same goes for text.

On the other hand there plainly are commercial organisations out there which just want to rip off and make money from the likes of Dr Grumble. Some of them have approached Dr G and some of them have just copied his work.

Anyway we are probably right to keep an eye on what they might be up to in the EU.

Dr Grumble is concerned enough to have informed their blogging lordships about his concern. He fears they may have no influence whatever on this matter which is clearly being decided miles away from Westminster.

Dr Grumble said...

It was right that Dr Grumble failed Use of English as he plainly has weakness in his comprehension. Mrs Grumble certainly thinks so. There is an explanation of the meaning of proposal 7 below which is doubtless intended for those like Dr Grumble who have difficulty with the legal turn of phrase:

The report acknowledges the spreading use for a nominal fee of user-generated content by the commercial publications and the privacy and competition issues this generates. It recommends compensating non-professionals commensurately to the commercial value they generate and using ethical codes to protect the privacy of citizens and public figures.


It is not all bad. You can see what they are getting at but surely if you put things in the public domain that is it? It is public. You need to realise that. Dr G always has. Younger people do not seem to grasp just what a big step it is to make a public declaration using the web. It is much worse than paper because anybody and everybody can find it instantly throughout the world.

This incidentally was the route of the problem with Dr Scott who forgot that he was not having a private chat but that he was being extremely rude in front of Elisabeth Paice about her friend Dame Carol. The other side to this was that Elisabeth Paice failed to realise that this sort of chat between youngsters goes on all the time on a massive scale and that they regard it like chatting in the pub. Also there are proper mechanisms in the chat rooms in the form of an abuse button which should be used to protect people in such circumstances. Reporting people to the authorities is plainly not a proper way to respond which is why there was such an outcry.

These were problems of new versus old ways of communicating causing a damaging clash between the hopelessly out-of-touch old and the incautious young.